Our changing world

Published on Sunday, 29 January 2017 00:34 - Written by NELSON CLYDE, Is It Just Me?

In my youth, there was a defining adage in business, “The customer is always right.” Fast-forward to our post-modern world and you have to wonder when or if such axioms lost their relevance.

Today’s world brings us hard-nosed customers who have demands as if trained in a school of negotiate-to-the-limit or else.

Many businesses now are unreachable other than by email forms or live chat sessions online with someone in a far away land. Technology companies are particular culprits of such distance-aided indifference.

Retailers were probably the greatest practitioners of the old service idea about the customer’s rightness. A few months back, I purchased some household items at Macy’s. The lady who rung up the sale made a point to let me know that Mr. Macy (who no longer exists as part of the company) was so adamant about customer satisfaction, I had a six-month return window to bring my stuff back for any reason or no reason.

Such a liberal policy is understandable in the competitive landscape of today’s world. But is it realistic in light of today’s consumers?

Online retailers who promise everything from free shipping to free returns may have made things even worse. It seems the old way of doing business, including the necessity of making a profit, is being set aside by the glitzy new models put forth by companies, which have never made a profit but promise to do so someday. Enjoy it while it lasts.

One of my biggest mistakes in business was trading too hard, as a customer, with a vendor for a service they were to provide our company. It was a deal too good to be true. The vendor had seller’s remorse over the bad deal they made and we never got the level of service we should have received. It was a great lesson.

Two local examples of sustained and superb customer service I have enjoyed over the years are the family-owned Greenberg Smoked Turkey Company and Brookshire Grocery Company. They are shining examples.

The moral of the story has led me to conclude, while the customer (including me) may not always be right, they are always the customer.